Arab, noun

Origin:
EnglishShow more Special sense of general English.
Especially in Natal: a Muslim of Indian descent, usually of the wealthier merchant class. Also attributive. See also passenger.
Note:
Also used elsewhere.
1885 Law 3 in Stat. Law of Tvl 1839–1910 (1910) I. 135Relating to Coolies, Arabs, and other Asiatics...This law shall apply to the persons belonging to one of the native races of Asia, including the so-called Coolies, Arabs, Malays, and Mohamedan subjects of the Turkish Empire.
1888 C. Du Val in M. Fraser Jhb. Pioneer Jrnls 1888–1909 (1985) 29We entered Johannesburg before daylight..to find ourselves..surrounded by the usual crowd of early buyers, English, Dutch, Arabs, Coolies, Kaffirs, and even Chinese.
1897 J. Bryce Impressions of S. Afr. (1969) 298The other class [of Indian people], less numerous, but better educated and more intelligent, consists..of so-called ‘Arabs’ — Mohammedans, chiefly from Bombay and the ports near it, or from Zanzibar — who conduct retail trade,..and sometimes become rich.
1901 Natives of S. Afr. (S. Afr. Native Races Committee) 7India (with Zanzibar) also supplies another class of immigrants in the ‘Arab’ retail dealers of the colony, who are mostly Mohammedans from Bombay and the neighbouring ports.
1913 Indian Opinion 29 Mar. 73The magistrate expressed his opinion that fresh Licences to Arab traders should be prohibited, and suggested that existing Arab stores should be closed down.
1957 M. Desai tr. of M.K. Gandhi’s Autobiog. 108Coolie..became a common appellation for all Indians. The Musalman merchant would resent this and say: ‘I am not a coolie, I am an Arab,’ or ‘I am a merchant,’ and the Englishman, if courteous, would apologize to him.
c1963 B.C. Tait Durban Story 207The white colonists, through ignorance and lack of interest, referred to all Indians as coolies...When educated, intelligent Bombay merchants and shipowners came upon the scene with cargoes of rice and condiments for sale..the townsfolk learned to discriminate between..‘Arab merchants’ and ‘coolie shopkeepers’.
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 225Known as Arabs or ‘Passengers’, and most of them Muslims from the State of Gujarat, they began to arrive in the 1870s and constituted the upper stratum of Indians in southern Africa.
a Muslim of Indian descent, usually of the wealthier merchant class. Also attributive.

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